For a change of pace, I picked up Dennis Mack Smith's Mussolini: A Biography to read. It was in the window of our nearby Borders, and the cover had this promising quote from George Steiner, one of my favorite writers and thinkers: "A model of its kind...for the general reader, it is difficult to believe that the Mack Smith portrait either needs to be or can be improved upon." That was enough to incline me toward the bio.
It's well written and fast paced, although I was surprised to find I already knew quite a bit about Mussolini, largely from Churchill's monumental work on the The Second World War and a high school class I took on the same subject (thank you, Mr. Deaner).
Among the interesting things worth noting -- during the First World War, when Mussolini, already out of the military and already plotting to lead some sort of movement -- left, right, it didn't matter -- considered the American entry into the war a decisive event ensuring that the allies would win, since America's soldiers and economic and industrial might would overwhelm the Germans. Two and a half decades later, according to Mack Smith, he had a decidedly different appraisal of the Americans:
In the following months, encouraged by this success, the Duce was more confident he had 'bet on the right horse'. Victory would soon place Italy at the very top of the hierarchy of nations where she would be able to 'direct the whole life of Europe', and the bigger the war became, the greater the reward of booty and reparation. He said it was just the kind of renovating bath of blood that fascism had been seeking, and anyone who disagreed with him on this point should be expelled from the party. The Americans, he repeated, would pose no serious problem; they were interested in making money, not in fighting, and rumours of their huge production of armaments were mere propaganda.
And what did those months follow? The September 1939 invasion of Poland? Munich? Perhaps the Blitzkrieg in France?
Because they always forget, it's best that we remember those who, time and again, have proven the tyrants wrong.Posted by Ideofact at May 30, 2004 11:31 PM